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The tiny island of Iwo Jima is just under five miles long and two and a half miles wide at its widest point and has been described by many as looking like a "pork chop" when viewed from the air. Iwo Jima sits in the Pacific Ocean 625 miles north of Saipan and 660 miles south of Tokyo.
The name of the island, Iwo Jima, translates to Sulphur Island in reference to the numerous ground vents that emit fumes from underground sulphur springs. The island is mostly barren, with a 556-foot extinct volcano on the southern tip of the island (Mt. Suribachi), black sands, rocky cliffs, and no source of drinkable water.
Just what did the Japanese want with what seemed to be a useless island? Airfields. It was the only island in the area capable of supporting airfields and the Japanese took full advantage of it. But, the U.S. wanted Iwo Jima so their fighter escorted B-29s could fly to Tokyo without being bombarded by Japanese forces on Iwo Jima and to offer a safe haven if the B-29s encountered a fuel shortage or battle damage.